Local animal shelter calls for foster volunteers in memory of Betty White

“That’s definitely where I’ve seen the greatest local need,” said Elizabeth Jefferis, Baypath’s chief executive.

The recent death of White, who was deeply committed to animal welfare, sparked a nationwide movement in support of animal shelters and rescue organizations. The last surviving star of the television series “The Golden Girls” died on December 31, a few weeks before her 100th birthday.

Baypath has seen an increase in the number of dogs abandoned by owners since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge in adoptions in the area.

Of the 272 dogs rescued by Baypath in 2020, 12% were abandoned by owners, according to Jefferis. Of the 300 dogs received by the shelter in 2021, 24% were handed over by the owners. Baypath also receives dogs from local animal control locations and shelters across the South.

“Local landlord buyouts are definitely on the rise, and we’re seeing a lot of everything,” Jefferis said. “There are the things that come out of a two-year pandemic, like behavioral issues, inability to afford medical treatment, or a change in lifestyle.”

The number of cats received by Baypath decreased between 2020 and 2021.

The path to becoming a host volunteer is easier than ever with Baypath’s online application available at baypathhumane.org.

“The majority of our shelter is run by volunteers,” said Kathy Lundgren, who is on Baypath’s outreach committee. “At Baypath, we only have around 10 people on staff, so being open seven days a week, 12 hours a day, we mainly rely on volunteers to help out.”

The foster program provides all the supplies needed to foster a pet, including food, and has an on-site trainer who works with the dogs using science-based positive reinforcement strategies, said Lundgren.

Pet owners turn to Baypath to abandon a pet for a litany of reasons, but the pandemic appears to have exacerbated some behavioral issues.

“There are behavioral issues that stem from not being able to socialize, Jefferis said. “A lot of these dogs haven’t had a chance to go to puppy classes or have people come to their house.”

Investing increases the value of the safe haven capacity by expanding its reach throughout the community and enabling more emergency placements, Jefferis said. With a vast reception network, the capacity of the refuge can more than double.

“It’s just amazing, there’s this incredible impact on the rest of the organization that takes a dog out of the shelter, because it affects other dogs that you can bring in and help out,” Jefferis said. “You can literally stop these dogs from really struggling.”

Kristen Arnold of Westborough is a Baypath foster family who has been fostering cats and dogs for over 20 years. Her journey began with fostering orphaned kittens and bottle feeding, and has now expanded to working with cats and dogs of all ages.

She said the rule in her household is to “always give an animal the best fighting chance it can have”. Over the past year she has had 25 puppies that have passed through her home.

“Our entertainment is to sit in the kitchen and play with the animals honestly,” Arnold said. “It was our saving grace in the pandemic because it’s a complete family effort.”

Grace Gilson can be reached at [email protected]